Tag Archives: Nurse

TBI or TMI…..Huh!

When my friend, Lisa fell down a flight of stairs and suffered a traumatic brain injury almost six years ago, those of us in her inner circle, including Lisa, were completely unfamiliar with the rabbit hole we were entering.

Eventually, as we learned to navigate the medical system, the caregiver system, and the devastating financial consequences of just such a trauma, many in the inner circle, including Lisa became less and less cognizant of the fact that she continued to suffer from a TBI and that the long term ramifications were unknown and ongoing.

Because Lisa is an extremely lucky gal and has brilliantly navigated these shark-infested waters of unknown medical complications, many people, even in the medical field, and including Lisa, would take for granted that months and years into this recovery she was just fine.

So we would go to her neurologist, or neurosurgeon and they would tell her that this recovery takes time. And she would say, “but i feel fine!” Then we would go to the grocery store and the price of oranges would be higher, or they would be out of her favorite toilet paper and she would tear up. And I would tell her, “it’s okay, it’s the brain injury.”

And so I told her, ” it’s okay to tell people you have a brain injury. In fact, when you are interviewed by Social Security, or your family doctor, you need to tell them that things like that just happened  in the grocery store, and it takes you unaware. That’s the brain injury.”

We would be out with our friends, and Lisa would either just stop engaging or step out of the restaurant. The over stimulation was too much for her. At first, we all thought she was being rude, only interested in conversations that were about her, (because she always jokes that oh, this isn’t about me?), but then we realized, then SHE realized that she just had to go rest, her day was overwhelming her quickly and dangerously. She has to continuously protect herself from possible seizures. So again, we told her…just say you have a brain injury and it makes you take some actions that seem weird to others.

“Huh,” she said.

So for some time, we would be at a medical appointment for say, her wrist, or her toes which would not seem to be the stuff of a TBI.  And Lisa would wax poetical with the nurse, who was just trying to get her vitals, about how she has a brain injury and this is how it happened and these symptoms she is here for may seem odd to you, but not to me, since I have a brain injury.

Or we would be in the drug store buying shampoo and vitamins and nothing of any medical significance and she would tell the clerk that it was so nice to be out on such a beautiful day, and you really appreciate those things once you’ve had a brain injury. To which the 16 year old clerk would respond with a look of panic.

Or in a coffee shop, she would tell the waitress that she probably should not have any more coffee, because she has a brain injury and she’s thinking that since certain things can cause seizures and over stimulation is one of them for her, that perhaps too much coffee isn’t a good thing. But it really hasn’t proven to be the case, so what the heck, fill up the cup. To which the waitress looks at me with the coffee pot poised in mid-air with a “what-the-hell-do-I-do-with-that-information?” kind of look. And I just shrug my shoulders.

Or at the hairdresser when she tells her about the 40 platinum coils in her brain that stopped the brain bleed after her TBI, not that it affects getting her haircut or anything. To which the hairdresser looks at me with scissors poised in mid-air and I just shrug my shoulders.

That day I realized perhaps my advice had been taken a bit too literally and said, “maybe you can STOP telling everyone you have a brain injury.”

To which Lisa replied, “huh.”

“You Just have to Laugh…………”

©2015 Cathy Sikorski

A Caregiver Confesses…………

Not every day in a caregiver’s life is worthy of a pat on the back. Last week the visiting nurse called me with her weekiy update:

“Hi Cathy, all is well with your brother-in-law,but I’m calling today as his advocate.”

Uh-oh. What does that mean? Immediately, my hackles go up. I don’t actually know what hackles are, if I have them or when they go up and down. But I do know that some red flag is waving behind my eyeballs, and I have become defensive before she even says her next sentence. And here’s why. I am his advocate. Not you. First, I am a professional advocate. Second, I am the one who goes to bat for him almost on a  daily basis. And third, if you are telling me you are advocating for him to me….that must mean you are about to tell me what I’m doing wrong.

“Okay,” I say calmly, “what’s up?”

“Since you’ve put him back on bed rest, he is frustrated and really angry. He doesn’t want to be in bed most of the day. He needs to be in his wheelchair and out and about with his friends. He needs to go to the dining room for every meal and have that independence.”

And here’s where I’m not so happy with myself….but this is only the first part of my confession.

“Let me tell you something (not a good way to start an open-minded conversation). He  just returned home from 10 months in and out of the hospital with 6 of those months straight in a nursing home.In just four days after being home, he began to have bed sores again and problems with open wounds. I feel pretty certain that he does not want to go back to either of those places and so since I know that bed rest was the only solution, I instituted that. Within 10 days of you seeing him, those wounds have significantly healed and he is almost able to return to his normal routine.”

“Well,” she replied, “I’m sure that’s what he needs.”

“I am not trying to make his life harder. Quite the contrary. But I will be sure and let him know that you have advocated for him.”

“Okay, thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!” she said as she got off the phone at breakneck speed.

The Thanksgiving remark sort of slapped me back to reality as well. I was feeling less grateful for her help and more needy of explaining my part in this Passion Play.

And then I misbehaved.

I went over to my brother-in-law’s apartment to discuss his advocate. I waited until the next day, so I could explain to him that I’m not a monster, I’m not insensitive to the fact that lying in bed most of the day is boring, not fun and makes for a long day. I only have his best interests at heart, and I don’t want him to end up back in any place but his home, where he is as happy as he can be.

When I arrived, he was watching TV in his chair.

“Hey,” I said, “your nurse tells me your mad at me.”

“Yeah,” he said, “I don’t want to be in bed so much. ”

And this is where all my sensitivity training, my caregiver’s heart and I’m pretty sure my 26 years as a Mom comes in to soothe and explain how all my hard work for him is truly in his own best interests, that I love him and want him to be healthy and safe and happy and that sometimes that road is a little bumpy.

“Get over it, ” I said.

I thought he would just have to laugh…..and guess what…he actually did………

©Cathy Sikorski



Weighing In……………

I noticed a weird bruise on my arm last week on Thursday. By Friday it had morphed into something that looked like a bear climbing a tree. It didn’t hurt. I had no recollection of bumping into things, or drinking too much wine on Wednesday (although now that I’ve written that “Wine Wednesday” sounds pretty tempting). So I went to the doctor.

Bruise Comparison Photo
Bruise Comparison Photo

The first thing they do when they take you into the super secret area where patients are seen is tell you to “get on the scale.” I have been trying to decline this for years. If it’s my annual check up or I think I have diabetes or perhaps I have miraculously lost those last damn 10 pounds by eating chocolate cake and the new Yeungling Black and Tan Ice Cream, then and only then will I get on the scale.

I’m sorry, I may be naïve to think that all American women have a psychological battle with weight, but I know all my friends do. That stupid number can send me into a tailspin of self-loathing and regret for days. I will not have it.

This time I may have been a bit intense in my questioning and refusal to be weighed for a bruise. The nurse ratted me out to the doctor.

“We have to weigh you for insurance purposes,” said the doctor.

“I’m sorry, but the insurance company doesn’t get to play mind games with me. Do you have any idea how crazy that scale makes me?”

“I’m starting to….”

“Women the world over hate getting weighed, even on a good day. It is a sign of our possible failure to literally measure up. It makes us feel bad about our next bagel. And it makes no sense when I’m coming in for a bruise. And on top of all that, not one doctor ever comments on my weight and how that may affect my health, so I have to conclude that unless it’s critical to my visit, it’s not important to the medical community on that day either.”

The doctor looked at me like I needed Xanax at that juncture and said, “we just have to check a box on the form that says we weighed you.”

“So what happens if I refuse to be weighed?”

“We check the box marked ‘declined’.”

So there you have it ladies and gents. If you have an irrational aversion to that doctor’s scale, you can just say “no,” or better yet, “declined.”

By the way, perhaps someone should have asked why I was so stressed by something so trivial. And that’s where the caregiver craziness shows up. In the final analysis, when attempting self care……

“You just have to Laugh….”

©2014 Cathy Sikorski


Pizza, Pizza……………

Arising at 4 A.M. to get to my brother-in-law’s apartment before the ambulance transport so that I could quickly give him his medications before surgery, as archly instructed by the hospital staff, may have fuzzed up my mind. I’m pretty certain this was the conversation I overheard while watching and waiting for three hours before they took him into surgery:

Nurse on phone: “Yes, those were the instructions. Yes, no food or drink after 8:00 P.M.  last night.  Well, I will have to call the doctor and see if they still want  you to come in.”

Nurse on phone to Doctor:  “Your surgery for 8 AM just called. She wanted to know if she should still come in if she had pizza for breakfast.”

Nurse back on phone to patient: “The doctor says he wants you to still come in. You won’t be his first surgery, but he wants you to come in and see if he can fit you in. What? What’s that? Okay. Well, I will inform the doctor of that, but you still need to come in.”

Take with Pills in AM
Take with Pills in AM

Nurse to any other nurse who will listen: “So she just told me that she also took some opiates and some alcohol this morning too. I don’t know if that was while she was waiting for me to get back to her, or if  she forgot to tell me the first time.”

A different nurse to my brother-in-law, who has a rash around his lips from no liquid for  the last 15 hours, is starving, and has a second nurse stabbing him all over the place trying to get the IV line in so they can administer drugs to make him happy: “Your surgery has just been moved up, lucky for you the first patient had pizza.”

“Oh yeah,” says my brother-in-law, “I was feeling all kinds of lucky today.”

To their credit, not one nurse ever violated HIPPA by revealing the name of the pizza-eating, opiate-taking, breakfast-of-champions alcohol-drinking patient who cleared the way for everyone to move up the line.

“You just have to Laugh…..”

©2014 Cathy Sikorski